British Caledonian
The Livery That Never Was

Caledonian's first flight in 1961, with a leased DC-7C, featured a red lion rampant on the tail; the Lion of Scotland was an integral part of the livery.

The use of the Lion followed through from Caledonian, to Caledonian//BUA and on into British Caledonian. During BCal's time the Lion Rampant was redrawn by Buster Brown, the airlines' livery expert, and the lion was made more heraldic in appearance. This revised livery was rolled out in 1977/1978.  The colours of BCal were known the world over.

However, the recently privatised British Airways was changing and in 1985 they unveiled their new colours. The new BA image - light grey, dark blue with a red cheat line and a silver crest on the tail (the Landor livery) - received mixed reviews at first, with one observer describing it as “a flying cigarette packet”. But it worked, and settled in eventually delivering the message BA intended, “we mean business”.

It impressed BCal - “We thought it was mostly excellent” recalled John de la Haye, “but it also reminded us of our problem. BA had already cornered the flag, even the word ‘British’ and many other [similar] names registered by BA and its predecessors. The name ‘British Caledonian’ was an affirmation of out Scottish roots”.

John de La Haye was interviewed in 1988 (post takeover) about the plans for the new livery, which was to be very different from what everone was used too, and said “We really look like a 1960’s carrier. In fact, we had not really changed that much since the very first livery in 1961”.

BCal took its Scottish heritage extremely seriously and an application was made to the Chief of Scottish Heraldry, The Lord Lyon, for permission to develop BCal's own version of the national symbol - the Lion. In fact, special dispensation was given by the Lord Lyon to allow the Lion to face both ways on the aircraft. So the lion and tartan were bound in to the BCal corporate psyche.

New aircraft were coming, the order for the A320 had been placed and their arrival was due in March 1988, and this was seen as an opportunity to refresh the image. Some within BCal saw their current image as dated, and a new livery would be the "catalyst for future growth" and would set them apart from other airlines.

At the beginning of 1987, John de la Haye and other BCal management already had a shrewd idea of what they wanted from a new look. Because so many carriers look the same, and are perceived by the public as offering the same product at the same price, distinction was a must.  BCal also wanted a business like look to propel it into the 1990’s and beyond.  It also wanted a company to handle the design work, one which would recognise the mature nature of the BCal spirit, and project it. Newell and Sorrell were appointed to undertake the new livery design.
Newell and Sorrell argued that BCal should ultimately drop the full title “British Caledonian” and rely instead on the abbreviation by which they were positively well know - BCal, not least because in many markets “British” meant British Airways.

For emphasis, a revised and revitalised lion would punctuate the corporate logo between the B and C. It would also move the lion from the tail to the forward fuselage and grow in size for clarity and emphasis. The new logo, in a richer royal blue and true gold rather than yellow for the lion would be used on everything from aircraft to menu, from service can to stationary.

To the right is a detailed close up of the new corporate logo.

Newell and Sorrell’s team set out four distinct objectives for the new look. All of the targets were intended to “pinpoint the spirit and hopes of the company”, and largely came from research and conversations with the airlines management and staff.

The four key aims were:-
To reflect the airlines confidence and commitment to the future in a positive way
To differentiate BCal from its competitors, many of which were beginning to look the same.
To create a rallying point for staff morale
To develop the unique nature of BCal’s personality and product line.

On the aircraft fleet the cheat-line would go in favour of a mainly white livery leaving the tail free for tartan designs. “These were stylised into modern graphic form, whilst retaining the tartan pattern, but streamlining its complexity” explained Frances Newell. The tartan tail would have been stencil-painted on and the completed look would have been “the most individually striking anywhere” said Newell.

John de la Haye agreed “nobody would have mistaken us at any airport. The look would have been a global recognition symbol which could not have possibly been confused with any other carrier”.

Subject to some fine tuning, the Newell and Sorrell livery plans were accepted by the BCal board at a meeting on 7th July 1987.

Below we have a very rare image, a bit faded, but this is one of the A320 models produced to show how BCal's livery would have looked on the A320, with fleet roll out following as aircraft were repainted.
Below the familiar line up of BCal DC10's at Gatwick.......................and a impression of DC10's in the new look
Those with a keen eye will spot the remarkable similarity between BCal's agreed new livery from 1987 and the Benyhone Tartan World colours livery used by BA in 1997..........BA's "world" colours were designed by the same firm, Newell and Sorrell.

The BA Benyhone tartan was tweeked slightly by all accounts so it did not copy what would have been the BCal proposed livery!

I would be pleased to have your thoughts on the livery choice, some may have seen it but I am sure it will be new to many.  Please drop me a line and I will post comments here

My thanks to Rohan Alce and Mark Bursa all for their help with the page